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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Review


"The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou", Touchstone Pictures, 2004


Wes Anderson's 2004 dramedy sits in a weird place in his filmography. Appreciated but never celebrated, there's something to be said for how far the writer/director goes in balancing the silly with the serious in comparison to something like 2014's 'The Grand Budapest Hotel', leading to some surprising moments that stands out from his usual mix of quirks, as well as, unfortunately, inconsistencies with the pacing.

In some aspects, it's the usual Wes Anderson affair we've all grow to know and love. Wearing its charm on its sleeve with an ensemble cast of characters framed under his recognisable lens of symmetry, audiences, at the very least, will instantaneously take to the dynamic formula of his presentation. Paired with the understated wackiness of its comedy, there is a certain sense of finesse that comes with how it downplays its weirdness and purposefully meaningless ticks; much in the same way, dare I say it, as a Tarantino film. It's indie-like sensibilities accompanied by the grand sense of scale its timeless practical effects, colourful glare and comically dramatic zooms and dollys provides gives it an underdog quality, personified almost poetically by Bill Murray's 'Steve Zissou', the playfully cynical and downtrodden centrepiece to the elastic screenplay that only someone of Noah Baumbach's talents could achieve. The seemingly simple story of revenge is purposefully crafted around the somewhat absurdist detours the tangents take, which, for me, is where the problems lie. Whilst, occasionally, its looseness is warranted in order for the story to dip in and out of its own unique bubble, stumbling upon some really funny scenes where its dry wit shines through in the best possible way, It ultimately highlights how the film is dependent on its individual charms to tell its story. Whilst all this space the story leaves is important for the Belafonte and its crew to fall in between the grey area of legacy the writing often returns to, its attempts to stir the pot with drama and heartfelt moments it begs to resonate with audiences comes across as flat, as it never feels obliged to step outside and build upon this mood it's created for itself.

The achilles heel of this movie is probably what fans would argue is its greatest strength: it's humble originality. It's obtuse stop-start sense of flow it flexes ultimately demands too much attention for audiences to appreciate the same details it gets lost in.


3.5/5 Stars

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